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Alexander White and the Pirates (and Goblins)

This novel length story (38,800 words in 7 chapters) is the
sequel to my short story Alexander Woyte and the Goblins

goblinsearch.com

Goblin stories by Zsolt Kerekes

this part written & first read aloud March 13, 2001

It was February in Privett and it was raining. In January it rained and washed away the first sprinkle of snow. In December it had rained on New Year's Eve and made the bonfire go smoky. Alexander's godmother Janet had used her magic skills to light the fireworks, and the rockets still went up in the air with a bang, which surprised the brown chickens who slept in the overlooking yew hedge.

Alexander had to stand inside the garden shed out of the rain while the rockets were being aimed, and then dash out to see the trail of light flashing upwards into the sky. Then back in again to keep dry. The chickens in the hedge wondered if it would be all right for them to go inside as well. But they stayed in their nest, because they were suspicious of all this dashing about, and had heard rumours about a barbecue.

In November, before that, it rained and all the roads got flooded. Then some of the roads got renamed into rivers. Then some of the rivers got renamed into lakes. The swans were happy. But Alexander was not. It seemed like it had been raining for ages. The last time it didn't rain was nearly a year ago, on the night when Alexander got kidnapped by the goblin king, Gunnar who lived in Petersfield. Alexander and the goblin king were friends now, ever since his father Andrew had come to the rescue and chopped the king's head off. That only kills a goblin king if the sword is made of silver, but that's another story.

A few days ago Alex asked one of his minders to ask the king if the goblins had anything to do with all the rain. The answer came back this afternoon in a letter delivered by registered goblin. Alex was too young to read it, so the messenger read it out for him. It said.

click to  expand Map of Privett etc

To: Alexander Woyte (Amicus Goblinorum)

Dear Alex

Regarding all this rain, and your question about whether the goblins have got anything to do with it....

The answer is.. No!

Yours sincerely

Gunnar, Rex Goblinorum

PS - I saw a programme on Red Hot Goblin the other day. They said , it was "global warming". Hope that clears things up.

PPS - I hope my minions are looking after you. If they cause any gyp, let me know and I'll feed them to the dogs.

Alexander looked worried at that, but one of the minions assigned to look after Alexander, called Sleepsalot, explained.

"The king doesn't like dogs."

The thought of global warming and the cold wet rain which rattled at the bedroom window made Alexander feel chilly. So, a few minutes after he was tucked up by his mother in the top bunk of his bed he got up and put on a warm shooting jacket, his green warm hat, a pair of gloves and some fur lined boots. Then he climbed back up and tucked in tight being careful not to step on any goblins on the way up.

Gunnar's letter about global warming

His goblin minders were allowed to sleep on the lower bunk. At first, his parents had made the goblins sleep outside the window, but with all the rain they used to get soaking wet, and their sneezing used to wake up everyone in the house, so Joanna said they could sleep on the lower bunk of Alexander's bed, provided that they wiped their feet when they came in, and didn't have any "noisy" parties. They kept to that part of the bargain, but sometimes such as on Alex's birthday or Christmas, they did have some "quiet" midnight parties which none of the grown ups knew about.

"Goodnight goblins" he said.

"Goodnight Alex!" chirped Eatsalot, the fat little goblin, who was still awake.

"Goodnight Alex..." yawned Sleepsalot, the thin little goblin who was trying hard to stay awake on guard duty.

"Bonsoir Alex" said Buvealot, a visiting Gallic Goblin who had done a student exchange with Lancelot who was visiting his long lost relations in San Marlo.

Lancelot's family had come over to Hampshire in the middle dark ages as a squire for the famous human knight known as Lancelot du Lac, when he joined the court of King Arthur in Camelot (which as all goblins know was actually in Petersfield, and not in Winchester as most human historians mistakenly think).

Lancelot's singing, was not as good in real life as it had been portrayed in the 1967 musical portrayed by Franco Nero. That was the real reason for the bust up between Arthur and his favourite knight. Lancelot's singing was worse than a goblin karaoke night, and got on everyone's wick. After a couple of bottles of Vin du Dark Ages Ordinaire, he would spend hours howling like a mad dog. The only way to shut him up was either to give him more to drink and hope he would pass out, or hit him over the head with another bottle (which was a lot quicker).

Lancelot, the goblin's, family lost contact, with what later became France, due to lots of human wars between England and France. The family also had a rare genetic tendency towards seasickness, which made international travel unpopular. When the channel tunnel opened, contact was reestablished and Lancelot was welcomed as a long lost nephew by his Gallic cousins.

That night Alex dreamt of water... and somehow his dream got mixed up with a strange site which was unfurling somewhere far, far away to the north...

How far north? Well my map doesn't go that far. It was certainly much further north from Privett than Basingstoke, further north than the county (which would rather be a country) of Yorkshire, and even further north than Scotland, but not quite so far as the North Pole. Somewhere in that cold icy sea, where the Titanic met her doom nearly a hundred years earlier, global warming was having a drip, drip dripping effect on a funny looking iceberg.

Pirate ship in the ice field

Drip, drip splash, drip. It looked like a ship had once been caught in the ice and was now seeing the dawn sky for the first time in hundreds of years, as icicles hung from the rigging and then came crashing down like spears sticking in the wooden deck.

Crash. Shatter. Another one speared the deck, and then shattered.

Captain Feary had been watching these deadly ice shards crashing all around him through his one good eye (the left one without the patch, for the past ten minutes). He was wondering if he might be standing right beneath one of these ice skewers.

Crash, shatter. That one landed close. The trouble is, he was still frozen stiff and couldn't dodge out of the way. Crash, shatter. A small spike of ice stuck in the brim of his tricornered hat.

He couldn't remember how long he had been standing here watching the icicles melting.

The last thing he remembered was being chased by those navy ships which had spotted them in the Irish Sea, and hung on their coat tails all the way up into the ice pack. The navy boats gave up there. It was one thing to stake your chances on the outcome of a cannonade with a pirate ship. That was glorious fun. But only a foolish navy captain would risk his ship and reputation being mashed by a giant ice cube. So they hung around the edge of the ice field for a little while shooting off a few broadsides and starting avalanches all over the place just to show they had been ther. And then they set sail back to sunny Portsmouth.

Captain Feary and his pirate crew had just broken out the rum to have a little celebration, when an ice storm hit them very suddenly. The alcohol in their blood had actually helped to preserve them and stopped their blood vessels from rupturing as they defrosted.

"Brrrr."

Behind him, Captain Feary heard someone shivering. So he was not the only survivor.

"Brrrr."

He couldn't turn round just yet, but he thought he knew who it was.

"Brrrr."

A warm breeze washed over the jolly pirate ship. Suddenly there was the tinkle of a thousand small splinters, and crack, crack, crack as the last sheets of ice broke off the sails, and suddenly Captain Feary found he could turn around and move.

"Brrrr" said the voice.

The Captain shook his crewman by the shoulder to speed up his circulation.

"Spit it out man. Don't hold it in."

Crack. His uniform defrosted. His lip was quivering.

"Shiver-mi-timbers" said Shiver-mi-timbers. "It's jolly cold here Captain."

Crash! Boing! A big lump of ice fell over the side of the ship, hit the gang plank (which was always fully extended) and bounced in the air before splashing down into the sea and waking up their giant towing shark, which, too had been frozen underneath the boat all this time. With a great lurch, the shark tugged ahead and the ship broke away from the surrounding iceberg into the open sea.

Captain Feary and the icicles

In Alexander's dream the pirate ship looked vaguely familiar. In fact it looked very much like a big plastic pirate ship which he used to play with when he was three or four. Come to think of it there was something strange about that shark. It looked a bit like the Action Man plastic shark which he had got for Christmas a few months ago. Except it was about a million times bigger. This was turning into quite an interesting dream, so he turned over in the top bunk, and waited to see what would happen next.

Meanwhile, back on the pirate ship, Sharky, who was still holding the rudder, defrosted as it swung suddenly out of reach. Seeing it was daylight, and thinking he had fallen asleep on watch, he thought he would wing it.

"Steady as she goes cap'n" then noticing that the sea and the sky looked a lot different from the last time he remembered, he asked. "Er which way are we going cap'n?"

"Head her down south" said the Captain. "We need to warm up a bit lads, Royal Navy or no Royal Navy."

"The sea looks a bit different cap'n" said Shiver-mi-timbers. "How long do you think we've been stuck in the ice?"

The Captain pulled out his gold pocket watch, which he had acquired from a lawyer sailing for the New World, who had actually reached the Next World a little sooner than his planned retirement, on account of his being a prosecutor for a well known hanging judge. He clicked open the case and held it to his ear. The watch had stopped. He breathed on it and shook it.

"Tick, tick, tick." Its fast paced ticking resumed. The little hand was on the III and the big hand was close to the XII.

"Three o'clock" by the watch "but close to dawn by the looks of the sky". He shook his head and adjusted the clock to show seven o'clock, and then gave it a good wind. "We'll call it seven o' clock until I get a chance to take our bearings. We may have been frozen for some time milads judging by the angle of the sun. And if we've been drifting, we may not be in safe waters. So prime up the cannon and shoot anything that comes close until we know for sure where we are."

"Aye aye cap'n" said Walk-the-plank. "Shall I make some tea as well?"

"Aye milad, it's nearly breakfast time. Light up the stove and let's heat up some rum."

After a nice cup of steaming hot rum and a fry up of salted pork and hard tack they all felt a lot warmer, and ready to take on anything that the sea had to offer. After breakfast, they gathered all their plates and mugs together and put them in the pirate dishwasher, which was a wire basket dangling over the front of the ship via a long pole called the bow sprit. This environmentally friendly dishwasher not only cleaned the plates after hours of swirling in the sea, but also speeded the ship up, because their pet towing shark could sweep up more of the remains by swimming faster.

The pirates were just getting to the mellow stage of singing pirate karaoke, which in their days were called sea shanties, and they were on the third verse of "what shall we do with a drunken pirate?" It went something like this...

"What shall we do with a drunken pirate?

What shall we do with a drunken pirate?

What shall we do with a drunken pirate?

When the rum is flowing?

Make him walk-the-plank until he falls in,

Feed him to the sharks, and watch him splashing,

See if he can climb out 'fore they get him,

Watch his cheeks start glowing."

Shark powered pirate ship

So they were rather taken by surprise when the long black shape suddenly rose out of the sea about fifty yards away, with a great rushing foam, and waves which hit their ship and nearly knocked them over.

"Thar she blows" cried Sharky, thinking it was a great black whale.

But the Captain's eye was quicker, and he saw before any the others that this monstrous black thing was not a fish, at all. In the middle was a lump which looked like a fin, and from out of the top came a whirring sound, followed by a clang.

"Man the guns" he said. "Make ready to fire broadside."

The pirate crew lept into their positions, just as two men in white uniforms popped their heads out from the top of the lump in the metal montrosity.

"Look at that, number one. Looks like we just missed that fishing boat."

"Damn bad luck Captain" said his companion. "Looks like we still haven't solved that problem of crashing into the bottom of jolly fishing boats. It didn't show up on our radar."

"Funny looking boat. Number one. Looks like one of those historical things out of Portsmouth, like a smaller reconstruction of the Mary Rose. Shall we wave?"

Pirates versus nuclear sub

Just then, Caption Feary had trained his telescope on their uniforms and spotted the deadly white ensign.

Looks like the Royal Navy have captured that whale, and are using it as a secret weapon, he thought, as he shouted aloud "Let 'em have it boys. Send 'em back to Davy Jones."

Flash, boom, crash. Three cannons fired off at almost point blank range and made terribly loud clangs as they hit the side of the nuclear submarine.

"Looks like it might be one of those Greenpeace boats in mufti" said the navy captain. "I heard they might be lurking around. Dive, dive dive."

The heads in the turret disappeared, followed by a clanging and a great whooshing of pumps and sirens. By this time the pirates had moved onto their number two guns, and started firing another broadside. Flash, boom, crash. Then there was a great splashing sound as the black ship disappeared under the waves, followed by a cheer by the pirates.

"We smashed 'em up good cap'n" said Walk-the-plank.

"We fed 'em to the sharks cap'n" said Sharky.

"Shiver-mi-timbers" said Shiver-mi-timbers. "It's jolly cold here Captain. Permission to dish out some more rum?"

"Permission granted. Let's have another cup of tea. But reload your guns first, and keep a beady eye open. There might be more of those whale type royal navy things lurking around."

Captain Feary was right. But it was the same whale type royal navy thing which, after its crash dive rose to periscope depth about a mile away to take a butchers at this strange fishing vessel.

"What do you think Number one? Must be one of those new secret Greenpeace boats, we heard about on the today programme on Radio 4. They're out to get us."

"Can't do us any harm Captain. Maybe we should just sneak away."

"I don't like the idea of just running away number one. Here we are:- in a billion pound nuclear submarine, running away from something that's little better than a load of balsa wood manned by a bunch of tree huggers. Don't like it at all. Doesn't seem right."

"We're not supposed to engage them captain. We're just supposed to keep out of everyone's way."

An idea sprang to the captain's mind.

"They didn't show up on our radar did they?"

"No sir. Well, when things are close, that sometimes happens."

"Therefore, they don't officially exist."

"No sir."

"Don't we have some of those test torpedo thingies, that we're supposed to try out from our American cousins?"

"You mean, the Fire-and-forget very HARMFUL torpedoes sir?"

"That's right. Part of our mission is: to try them out, when we get to a nice bit of clear open sea, and see how fast they go. If there was nothing on the radar when we came up, and you and I saw nothing when we went up the tower, there can't be anything out there. So why don't we just..."

"Fire and forget? You mean sir."

"Exactly. Most of these test thingies we get from the research people are duds anyway, so we can just squirt one out of the tubes and scuttle off. No harm done, if we don't hang around to look back. We'll log it as a misfire. It will teach those Greenpeace blighters to keep out of our way."

"Aye aye sir."

The Fire-and-forget very HARMFUL torpedoes, were the latest generation of high speed ship destroying sea to sea missiles made by The Smashem Corporation in Virginia. The idea was, that you didn't even have to aim them. In a navy fire fight you just launched them, and buggered off, and they locked onto anything which wasn't carrying a friendly signature. It would lock on to any kind of vessel, whatever it was made of:- steel, wood, plastic and even stealth fabric. It operated by sensing the minute magnetic fields given off by microwave cookers, MP3 players or any other electronic gadgets on board any modern navy ship. It could even lock on to a cigarette lighter. The torpedo would slam into an enemy ship at two hundred miles per hour and then detonate a mighty chemical bang which would blow apart twelve feet of uranium depleted armour plating.

Captain Feary saw the wake of a very fast fish suddenly appear about a mile away, heading straight towards them.

"Something very fast on the starboard bow, lads."

"Looks like a shark cap'n" said Sharky. Who hadn't quite judged the distance yet. "Shall we try and catch it."

"Good idea" said the Captain. "Get out the fishing net, lads. We could do with some more shark power."

A few seconds later, the approaching foam was a lot closer, but the pirates were ready with their nets, and bait.

"Throw out some of the bait boys, let's see if we can tempt her to come nearer."

They threw a bucket of rotten fish out the stern, and got their nets ready.

"She's turning cap'n" must have smelt the bait.

Whoosh. The torpedo whizzed past the stern of their ship rocking it slightly.

"Very fast shark now on the port bow cap'n" said Sharky. "And getting further away. I don't think we'll catch him."

After about twenty miles, the test torpedo was primed to self destruct to prevent harm to friendly fishing boats. About five minutes later there was a blast of light on the port bow, but the pirates weren't looking that way any more. This was followed several seconds later by a a great boom of thunder.

"Funny" said Walk-the-plank "can't see any clouds."

"Shiver-mi-timbers" said Shiver-mi-timbers. "Permission to make some more tea before it rains cap'n?"

"Permission granted" said Captain Feary. "There's more going on here than meets the eye. Maybe some tea will help us to think things out."

Meanwhile, back in Privett, the boom of the torpedo had woken up the goblin minions, who were supposed to be guarding Alex. They didn't know what it was, and because it was dark they were a bit scared, so they climbed into the top bunk with Alex, taking care not to wake him, and soon went back to sleep in a huddle by his feet. They felt a lot safer on the top bunk which was out of harm's way. And as soon as dawn came, they agreed they would jump back down and pretend they hadn't been scared at all.

In the ocean, the boom of the exploding torpedo was picked up on the sonar of submarines from the British and US navies. A nearby Russian submarine also picked it up.

"What was that?" asked captain Ivan Sinkasubovich who was listening to Pink Floyd on his Rio 500 MP3 player.

"Another one of those dud Fire-and-forget very HARMFUL test torpedoes which the US have given to the Royal Navy" said his number one.

"Why do they bother?" asked the captain. "We can buy better ones from the French."

"It makes them feel important, and part of the special relationship" said his number one, who for cost saving reasons was also the resident spy.

"Oh well. When the log is fixed, add it to the log."

"Da Captain."

Ivan Sinkasubovich went back to listening to his favourite tracks on the Dark Side of the Moon.

But the boom from the Fire-and-forget torpedo had also been picked up by another boat, which even now had automatically locked onto the location and was racing to the scene to investigate.

The Rainbow Warrior XXX was the most sophisticated and powerful vessel which had ever been deployed in the service of environmental warfare. To the outside world it looked just like any other 60 foot power boat which bombed around the coastline of Britain at weekends sending out bow waves to rock sailing yachts and tip their sleeping crews out of their bunks. But inside, she was a real monster.

Her quad turbo injected BMW ten thousand horsepower engines, which ran on enviromentally friendly distilled potato juice, enabled her to reach top speeds of over one hundreds knots. And in dire need that could be boosted for short spurts by pressing the go-faster button which activated the after-burner leaving a vapour trail which rose like a tornado in its wake.

Standing in the cockpit was a contraption which looked from a distance like the kind of telescope you get at seaside resorts, in which you put ten p, to get a closer glimpse of the waves. But the handgrip and trigger were the giveaway signs that this was no simple optical instrument. It was, in fact, a high powered anti riot water cannon which had been modified to shoot out fast drying flourescent paint. The crew's secret mission was to hunt out nuclear submarines when they came up for air and shoot them. The quick drying bright yellow flourescent paint would make the submarine ultra visible to anyone looking for them. That meant they would have to go back to port to be scrubbed down and repainted, which would reduce the amount of time they spent on patrol, thus making the world safer. That was the thinking, anyway, and this was the Triple X's maiden voyage.

The Rainbow Warrior XXX had been designed with speed in mind, so she could operate with a light crew of just two people. However, on this, their first mission they were actually cruising with an international crew of three. Nigel, from Croydon was the captain who had designed this boat and conceived her mission. His first mate Helga might have been German originally or Swedish, and he had met her at a beach party in Brighton. But she was freshly out of a finishing school in Switerland. She was a dedicated green activist who seemed to survive on a diet of live yoghurt washed down with vodka and lime.

The third crew member wasn't a member of Greenpeace at all. His name was Hank, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and he was a long way from home. Hank was a freelance documentary maker who was on vacation in Brighton having just completed a documentary on the rat pack reporters who chase after famous stars like Madonna and Elton John. He had been trying to chat up Helga at the beach party but had been unlucky enough to be eating a chicken leg at the time.

"You naughty boy" she said, smacking him with one hand, removing it from his grasp with the other and throwing it into the sea. "You mustn't eat little animals."

"Actually, I was just about to become a vegetarian. That was my last one," he said. "For old time's sake."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of Malboros.

"You naughty boy. No smoking. It's bad for your health."

Before he could say anything, his last pack of duty free cigarettes had been snatched away and thrown onto the bonfire.

"Have a drink, instead. Lime juice, full of vitamin C."

He took a swig of her bottle and nearly choked. According to the label, the bottle had once contained lime juice, and even now probably still had a few parts per million which could be traced if you were a chemist. But the main content was rocket fuel strength Russian vodka, which he later found out was the environmentally friendly fuel used in the Rainbow Warrior XXX. He found that out later when he followed her into a nearby pub and bumped into Nigel.

"We're looking for a cameraman for a documentary we're planning" explained Nigel. "Do you know anyone."

"I'm your man" said Hank, who still hadn't given up on Helga yet, and couldn't see what she saw in this weedy Brit. "Here's my business card."

It impressively reda "Hank's Real-life Documentaries Inc., We go where goblins fear to tread." And it had a real web site address which ended in dot-com, not one of those parochial English ones which were dot-co-dot-uk.

"He's a naughty man" said Helga. "He smokes and eats little animals."

"I'm afraid that is a problem" said Nigel. "Our boat is Vegan and strictly no smoking, because of the risk of explosion, from the fuel."

"I've just given up eating meat and smoking" lied Hank convincingly. "And I've always wanted to do a nature documentary. When do we start?" He asked.

Nigel held out his hand, and Hank shook it firmly.

"On Monday" he said. "Welcome aboard."

Helga pecked him on each cheek.

"You're a naughty man " she said. "But we'll turn you into a good vegetarian."

Anyway, that was how Hank came to be on watch in the cockpit of the Rainbow Triple X, just when the autopilot picked up the sonic boom from the exploding Fire-and-forget very HARMFUL torpedo and changed course to get closer.

He liked being on watch by himself, and often volunteered even when it wasn't really his turn.

"You are becoming such a good boy" said Helga. "Have an extra pot of yoghurt to give you strength."

The first thing he did when she went down into the cabin was to empty the yoghurt container over the side of the boat. Then he would get out his rucksack of film gear which had a label on it saying "Warning sensitive film equipment! Do not open or expose to light!"

In actual fact, the rucksack contained the kind of special supplies which came in jolly useful when you were a freelance documentary maker. The first thing he got out was a pack of cigarettes. He would smoke about twenty of these to make up for lost time, and used the empty yoghurt pot as a convenient ashtray.

Next, he pulled out a can of ex army surplus "Meals ready to eat" or MRE's. These were mainly beefburgers with a variety of chilli and tomato sauces. Hank pulled a tab off the side of the can and left it for a few minutes, and then an internal chemical reaction heated the contents to a sizzling hot temperature. He ripped the top off the can, throwing it over his shoulder and breathed in the freshly fried smell of burning beef and onions. They somehow tasted better, because they were forbidden fruit on this veggie vessel.

Next came the fun part. He turned the throttle down to idle, and let the boat drift for a while almost still. In order to get rid of the evidence he had to throw the empty tin out over the back of the boat, while being careful to make sure that it cleared the propellers. When he first started doing this a few days ago, he found that the smell of the meat would quickly attract a bunch of sharks which would usually fight each other to the death. The winner ended up swallowing the whole tin in one gulp. This was quite good fun to watch. And another thing he found in his rucksack was a leftover from his days as a war correspondent... A box of hand grenades.

It was even more fun to pull the pin out of a grenade and wedge it carefully into a beefburger tin before throwing it out the back. The winning shark would crunch the tin which would release the handle of the grenade, and a few seconds later... boom. Bits of shark would blow all over the place. That's when he usually restarted the engine, and if anyone anyone asked about the noise, he just said "Must be a misfire of the engines."

He hated sharks. And he knew that they hated him. They watched him from the water with their beedy little eyes waiting for him to fall in so they could eat him. But they were stupid fish, and he was the end result of millions of years of human evolution. No matter how many times he did the hand grenade trick, they always fell for it, and there was always another bunch of dumb sharks just ready to come in and take over from those who had been eaten up or blown up before.

He was too busy enjoying his next pack of cigarettes and wondering if there was time to repeat the exploding shark trick to notice what was coming up ahead. So he didn't see the pirate ship. And when he heard the boom of their cannons he just thought it was one of those grenades which got stuck in a tin and didn't go off properly before he had perfected his technique.

Boom. Boom.

He was busy trying to remember exactly how many hand grenades he had thrown out when suddenly a cannonball went straight through the window of the cockpit.

"That was close" he thought.

Just then, Nigel popped up the stairwell and stood up inspecting the damage.

"Good lord" he said "What's that?"

There was a shout of - "Stand by to receive boarders."

And suddenly they found the deck was filled with pirates who were pointing very sharp looking swords at their vital parts.

Just then, Helga popped up from the cabin and saw what was going on.

"Ooh you naughty boys" she said. "If you were having a party, you should have invited me."

Meanwhile back in Privett, Alex tossed and turned. This dream was getting quite complicated now. And he could see that the pirates had rounded up the people from the power boat and taken them onto the pirate ship at sword point where Captain Feary was about to interrogate them.

"Prisoners all counted and ready to walk the plank cap'n" said Walk-the-plank cheerfully.

"Shark is untied and made loose cap'n" said Sharky who managed their towing shark. "And he's looking hungry."

Captain Feary lifted up his eye patch to get a better view, and then covered it up again. Then his wicked good eye wandered up and down the line of prisoners, finally settling on Nigel.

"Are you feared o'me boy?"

Nigel held out his hand at this introduction. "Hello, Captain, my name's Nigel. I'd like to say how jolly authentic your ship and everything looks. Especially the uniforms, and plank and everything."

Captain Feary just stared at him with his unwinking mad eye.

"Permission to make the prisoner walk the plank sir, for talking out of turn sir?" asked Walk-the-plank eagerly. "Please sir?"

"That... was the wrong answer" said Captain Feary turning away. "Make him walk the plank lads. That's what it's there for. It's not just for decoration." He winked madly.

"Now, I say, that's a bit much" protested Nigel, but he couldn't do anything about it because the pointy end of a very sharp cutlass was poking into his bottom, and he had no option but to move wherever the wielder of the cutlass wanted. As he got to the plank he saw that it was quite narrow, but solidly built from good old British oak and at least three inches thick, not like that chipboard and veneer cheap foreign stuff which you find in many of the DIY shops nowadays. He hoped it was chopped from a sustainably managed forest. He would have to ask about that later. The cutlass jabbed him to move on. He held his arms out to keep balance as he walked onto the plank and then towards the end.

"Jolly good joke" he said "but seriously...."

Captain Feary nodded, and Walk-the plank applied a short sharp kick with his foot.

Splash! Nigel disappeared under the water. Then a few seconds later came up for air waving his arms. The water was quite cold, but he was a good swimmer.He started to swim over to the power boat which was tied up alongside. So he didn't see the giant fin of the tow shark coming up behind him. The slitty evil mouth of the shark opened wide, and Nigel disappeared. The shark dived under the ship out of sight. A few seconds later there was a sound of coughing and spluttering on the other side of the ship, but none of the pirates took any notice. The shark sometimes had wind.

"Holy cow!" exclaimed Hank.

"That naughty shark has eaten Nigel" said Helga.

"Now" said the Captain smiling. "Who's going to be next?"

"Ladies first" said Hank, hoping to delay things a little bit. She gave him a short sharp look, as if to say, you're never going to get off with me now buster. Even if we get stuck on a desert island and you're the last man wearing trousers... He realised now, that he'd blown his chances.

"It's nice to see that a true gentleman never forgets his manners" laughed the Captain.

"Well then doxy. What have you got to say for yourself?" he leaned closer to Helga. "Are you feared o'me girl?"

"You're a very naughty pirate" she said defiantly "and you smell. You should wash yourself from time to time. I don't think the shark would eat you. I have some tea bark oil and an ozone friendly deoderant in my cabin. You're welcome to have it all."

Captain Feary went white with rage.

"That... was the wrong answer" said Captain Feary turning away. "Make her walk the plank lads. We'll teach her some respect."

"I know the way" she said "When the cutlass was pointed at her bottom."

And without waiting to be kicked she ran to the edge of the plank and dived in. A few seconds later, the giant shark swallowed her up and disappeared under the ship again. There was a sound of coughing and spluttering again on the other side of the ship, but again no-one took any notice.

"And finally" said the Captain. "We're down to the last one. Are you afeared o'me boy?"

Hank started talking fast. "Hey" he said. "You know, I'm a film maker. Here's my card. Look, I can make you guys famous. You'll be on TV, satellite, cable, the internet. Millions of people will know who you are and what you look like. You won't be able to walk down the street without being recognised and people asking for your autograph. We'll have to reshoot the shark stuff, shame we couldn't get it on film. We'll have to fake it, and maybe throw in some cows or sheep to make it look real. You can't expect actors to do that, even if you're paying millions of dollars."

The Captain bent his neck and looked at him from an angle.

"Your accent" he said. "You're not English, are you?"

"No sirree" laughed Hank.

"Australian?"

"Wrong again" said Hank laughing. "I'm from the good old US of A."

"What the hell's that?" asked the Captain, who had frozen solid before 1776.

"You know - America... McDonalds, Disney, Coca-Cola, Buffy the Vampire Slayer...?"

This was too much for the captain. "It's all the wrong answer, and by the way we don't want to be famous. We like to be very unfamous when we walk about the streets of Portsmouth, doing a bit of shopping, on account of the fact we don't want to be hanged."

He winked at Walk-the-plank, and waved his hand to show the way.

"Hey, you can't be serious. I'm an American citizen. If you feed me to the sharks, my government will come after you and hang the lot of you."

"Speak nicely to the shark" said Captain Feary, "and maybe he'll grant you diplomatic immunity."

The pirates laughed at that. Slowly, slowly, Hank was nudged towards the plank. Then onto it, and finally. The order of the boot...

"Geronimo!" he yelled as he dropped in.

The shark had been waiting especially for this one. It was still very hungry because it had spat out the other two prisoners because they smelled of lentils and beans and lettuce and other horrible vegetarian things which were very bad for a shark to swallow and likely to cause an upset stomach. This one smelt of beefburgers and smoke and gravy. He had also heard about an American who had been tossing hand grenades in beefburger tins to blow up his unsuspecting shark cousins. This was a good opportunity to ensure that would never happen again.

Snap, went the evil slitty mouth of the giant shark, and Hank disappeared inside.

On the other side of the ship, Helga and Nigel, were both unharmed and hanging onto some barnacles and seawead, waiting for the shark to spit Hank out.

Crunch, crunch, chrunch.

"I think Hank was a naughty man who ate little animals" Helga sighed. "And he was not a gentleman."

The pirates heard her, and went over to that side of the ship and leaned over.

"Permission to be very shocked cap'n?" said Sharky. "Two of the prisoners have been spat out by the shark, alive and uneaten on account of them being leguminous and not very tasty."

"Haul 'em in" said the Captain. "We can't have strange people poisoning our shark. It might upset him."

Nigel and Helga were pulled back onto the deck, dripping and shivering.

"Permission to heat up some rum and make some tea?" said Shiver-me-timers. "While we decide how to kill the prisoners properly?"

"Granted lad. Be quick about it."

The hot rum was passed around, and Helga grabbed the saucepan and darined it in one go.

"You naughty pirates" she said. "That's as weak as dishwater. I've got something much better and much stronger."

In a little while, all the pirates got drunk on triple distilled vodka, so they decided not to kill the prisoners after all. In return for 100 gallons of the "good stuff" they decided that Nigel and Helga could go on their way. Provided they agreed to sign a special form of piratical non-disclosure contract.

In this contract, Nigel and Helga agreed not to tell the US navy what had happened to Hank, and the pirates in return agreed not to tell anyone in Greenpeace that a member of their crew had been a rampant carnivore. They all signed in triplicate, shook hands and parted the best of friends. Nigel also gave them a few buckets of the special flourescent paint, and the pirates agreed that in the interests of mutual fraternization that if they ever saw a nuclear submarine close to, they would do their best to try and paint it, if it stayed still long enough.

Meanwhile, back in Privett, something very odd was happening as a crack appeared in the space-time continuum. Whether this was caused by the focusing effect of three goblin minions being huddled so close together, or whether this was just another effect of global warming, I really can't say. But suddenly Alex woke up from his dream.

It wasn't the sight of three little goblins huddling at his feet which got him worried. And it wasn't the waves lapping around the bunk bed. And even the pirate ship floating about a hundred feet away looked reassuringly familiar. No, none of those things scared him at all. What was lurking at the back of his mind was the memory that he had eaten fried sausages for supper before going to bed that night, and there was a rather large tail fin whizzing through the water straight towards him....

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